May Bug (Cockchafer)

I wrote about these slow flying, heavy beetles a few days ago.

This evening, I was putting clean sheets on the bed when the deep buzzing of a May Bug caught my attention. I quickly cupped it into a jar, as shown, before taking it out to the back garden for release by the goat’s willow.

The photograph is the view from the tail. It shows the egg laying protuberance of a female.

On the head the two feathered antennae, like grotesque false eye-lashes, are visible.

With wings folded the Cockchafer is the size of a man’s thumb; with wings buzzing, it looks like a blurred flying ball. I will sleep more easily without this specimen crawling around my bed.

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n.b. Also known as Doodle Bugs, or Rookworms.

Christopher Perry

17th May, 2020

Day 59

At the Salthouse church of St Nicholas a nest of blue tits has been established, despite the extensive repair work to the external flint and lime mortar. The parent birds have found food in a nearby garden and are shuttling to and fro to top up their hatchlings. As one bird leaves and crosses the west face of the church, the other is already flying towards the gap in the stone work with more food.

The birds have done well to find this site for their home. The gap in the wall is just the right size for them to squeeze in, is about six metres up the face of the building and is sheltered from the wind off the sea.

This is a busy time. A blackbird scurries across the dusty street. Wrens are darting into gaps in hedgerows. House martins have returned to the mud bowls under the eaves they have been visiting for generations at a nearby cottage. In the wild plum tree there is a commotion of chirping from a nest full of small birds chiding the adults to bring, “More! More! More!”


I have reached a point where I am unable to deliver, “More! More! More!” of this series.

I am very fortunate to be living in these strange times in such a beautiful place. Knowing that I would be looking out for something to write about here each day, has made my daily exercise more than just a duty of self-care. It has been a blessing to be able to immerse myself in these surroundings.

With the gradual loosening of restrictions on lockdowns around the world, we are now at a time when we must reconnect and find ways of recovering and re-structure our lives together. What I have seen here emphasises to me the importance of doing this in ways that allow the natural world to thrive alongside us. Our good health, in all aspects, depends on everyone working together to ensure this is so.

I will continue posting bits and pieces about wildlife and my natural surroundings while I continue on my travels.

Thank you all for the “Likes” and comments you have sent in about these 59 posts. It has been a pleasure to hear from you.

With Love

Christopher Perry

Saturday, 16th May, 2020

Day 53

Great Eye, a lump of clay and sand, is dissolving a little more with each storm tide. It used to be further inland, less exposed to the direct action of sea. For a while it was the site of a folly building, which then became a coast guard rocket house, before the foundations and brickwork succumbed to the tides.

Random sections of old brickwork still exist, but they lie down the beach, edging toward the sea. The mortar still holds, but is gradually thinning. The red bricks have long since become smoothed and rounded off at their extremes. The sea has a way of rounding everything off, smoothing things out with its steady soothing motions.

I picked up several pebbles on the shore this afternoon, I kept hold of four: a black, flat ellipse of granite; another egg-shaped disc, closer to ivory than stone; a tiger-striped orange and brown disc, roughly the size of a 50 pence piece; a deep red pebble the size of my thumbnail.

I dropped a fifth stone accidentally when examining a dead green crab that had acted as host to several barnacles on its shell. This pebble was almost see-through and small enough to set in a ring for a little finger.

The granite disc fits perfectly into my right palm. I can close my hand fully around it. It warms in my grasp.

The red pebble gains a shine easily.

The tiger stone and its pallid twin lose their lustre once dry, but retain their physical integrity. The tiger stone is distinct enough to become a reminder of these days, walking this coastline during unusual times.

I was going to write about the sand martins here too. They are busy at Great Eye today. I will visit them again soon.

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Christopher Perry

9th May, 2020

Day 50

I had a long list of things to write about today, but in the end one magical moment grabbed my attention; the hares above Kelling Hard.

Native to Britain, they remain a sight for sore eyes in much of the island, but in this area they are seen in nearly every field, in the pastures, on the marshes, even bounding along the hedge-lined lanes. I am still at the point of savouring seeing them without having to seek them out. Like the barn owl earlier this month, if you remain alert to their possibility, they will appear.

It is May and my expectation is that hares are now settled into family groups, with territories agreed and the contest for female attention passed. So, I am surprised to see a stand-off between two hares. One is sitting tall on its haunches, ears pricked forelegs at chest height, looking like a relative of a kangaroo, or wallaby. The other is in a stalking, crouched position. Its shoulders and hips bulge above the outline of its back, it is ready to pounce; its ears are down, aligned with its back.

The upright hare ensures that it holds its tall, confident posture, but has to turn where it is facing to follow his crouched opponent, who circles, trying to gain a place from where to attack. This posing and positioning, the stand-off continues for several minutes. It is clear that neither is going to turn tail on the other. Around the field numerous other hares quietly graze in the lee of the hill, enjoying the last warmth of the day’s sun.

Suddenly, the two spring into action. Kicking and flailing at each other. There is a moment when they are both fighting in mid-air; backs bent to the fight so all feet can claw at the other. In this combined leap they repeatedly scratch and hit out, twisting like air-borne fighting blackbirds, the hares’ sprinters’ limbs a blur.

I am watching this from behind a low hedge down the slope. When they launch into action they break the line of the horizon above and I see blue sky beneath them; they continue fighting stalled in flight at the point before gravity brings them back to earth – Norfolk Ninja warriors.

The last vivid memory that I have of watching such behaviour was when I was a primary school pupil. It may have been during the March of 1968. Our teacher, Mrs Lally, took the class for a walk out of the school, past the art college and along the bank of the river. She told us about weeping willows, we saw grey, fluffy, ugly-duckling cygnets with their mute swan parents, rainbow trout against the gravel in the shallow river and across the water meadows, on the other side of the Itchen, hares. These were the already renown Mad March Hares, in good numbers, with three of four pairs boxing with each other.

As a child I was lucky to be part of a family where going for walks and learning about the natural world was part of growing up, even though we lived in a spacious, suburban, dormitory town. As a consequence, most of what I was shown on those school walks was not new to me, but the boxing hares were novel and exciting to see; lively, wild animals behaving badly – what a treat!

On this evening walk I had seen another family of greylags, but this time with just two adult geese in charge. I had my binoculars to hand and was able to count twelve goslings being shepherded by the parents. Something spooked the parent birds and they quickly set off with the goslings towards a shallow ditch where they could shelter en masse. The adults, instead of walking tall, heads elevated like periscopes, ran crouched low to the grass, beaks held out in advance, just a few inches above the grass, tails counter-balancing this unusual position, also just a couple of inches from the turf. The goslings moving in unsteady single-file between the big birds, allowed me to be more certain of their number. Can greylag geese count their hatchlings, or do they just instinctively protect the ones who can keep up? 

The call of cuckoos is becoming as commonplace as the sight of the swifts above the red-tiles in the villages here. Swallows are now more obvious in better numbers. Various bee species lay a gentle background buzzing to accompany moments sheltered from the wind. 

Against the setting Sun I see the shape of someone emerge from the sea. The man is up and away, jogging on home without much hesitation. I am wearing a cycling jacket and at least two good layers underneath that. Swimming in the North Sea might be good for me in some ways, (blood circulation, a sense of being in the present, a stimulant) but pneumonia is something I wish to avoid.

The wind gets at my chest and despite being sun-burnt on my face, I do not feel totally healthy as a result.

I will not report on the temperature today, other than to note that it is normal for Norfolk.

Christopher Perry

6th May, 2020

Day 45

In a game of peek-a-boo, the Sun intermittently skips through the day behind cloud banks. By evening, the sky is clear and the garden is flooded with gold.

The recent rain has done its work and the grasses, trees, flowers, herbs have all drawn strength from the dampened soil. Their increase in turgor pressure irons out any thoughts of wilting. Leaf and flower buds are forced open.

I am endlessly fascinated by the spread of grasses, the variety of blades, the differences in growth patterns, the speed of growth. Then the mix of plants that coexist within the sward: daisies, buttercups, dandelions, clover, greater plantain and here clutches of cowslips that show no sign of being cowed by the growing competition.

The cowslips will outlast the bluebells, having already seen off the daffodils. They will still be lively when the grasses produce flowers.

At the start of this luminous evening a cuckoo calls out. Three distinct calls. Smooth, clear, soft, fluting hyphenated calls – as if delivered by a professional musician, without hurry. The pause between each call allows just enough time for a breath of breeze to carry the paired notes up over the village.

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Christopher Perry

1st May, 2020